My youngest daughter will start kindergarten in less than a week.
She is the third of three girls, and after seven years of being a stay-at-home mom, I am looking forward to having all my children in school. I don’t look forward to being constantly asked, by well-meaning individuals, “What are you going to do with all that free time now that all your children are in school?”
I live in the South, and I acknowledge that this is a simple conversation starter for most people, a way to fill in the lulls in conversation and look, at least culturally, invested in my life. However, the question is annoying at the surface level and borderline offensive on a deeper level for me and many others who stay home. It has taken me years to accept my stay-at-home role, struggling with identity and worried that people think I don’t do anything all day because “I just take care of my kids.”
So, in hopes of combating the people who’ve asked, “Don’t you get bored being with your kids all day?” “Don’t you ever feel like you’re wasting your talents at home?” or my favorite, “When do you think you will get a real job?”—here’s what I have to say.
In the past seven years at home, I’ve helped watch other people’s children, organized playdates, hosted book clubs, led Bible studies, served in various roles at church, earned a seminary degree, started freelance writing, and even taken on a part job as a bookkeeper, all in the attempt that I was more than, “just a mom.”
We didn’t need the small extra income from my various jobs, my husband didn’t push me to do more than take care of the kids, and I wasn’t personally unfulfilled—yet I still took on these extra tasks.
I bounced babies while studying for exams.
I held toddlers in my lap while writing on a deadline.
I stopped and started numerous times, taking double or triple the time to finish a work task.
I towed children to set up for an event at church, stopping to break up a sibling argument, take someone to the bathroom, or grab another snack.
I endured battle scars from grocery carts driven by small children who repeatedly ran into the back of my ankles.
I don’t ask for pity or deny that many women would relish these opportunities. I chose to stay at home and I decided to take on these other tasks. My point is simply this: I will do the same thing I always did with all my children in school, just without three kids around for six hours a day. Yes, six, because after morning drop-off and then getting back the infamous after-school pick-up line, that’s about what it is.
Now, six hours is a good chunk of time, which I am grateful to have.
These precious hours will allow me to go to bed and wake up quickly.
They will increase my work productivity and allow me to finish things in half the time.
They will allow me to volunteer and serve without the added stress of children running around.
They will allow me to give my children one-on-one attention if someone is sick or wants me to attend a school play or be a chaperone on a field trip.
They will allow my husband and me to have a day date and catch up on life; they will strengthen my marriage.
They will allow me to prioritize my physical health without feeling guilty for taking time away from my kids.
See, with or without my children, my time is filled. So please, stop asking mothers what they will do with all their free time when their kids are in school. And please stop giving her suggestions of ways to fill her calendar, or heaven forbid, implying now is the time she heads back into the workforce.
Instead, a well-meaning friend, family member, or lady in the check-out line might ask the mom who finds herself sending all her children to school this year how she feels with this new stage of life. Gently ask if she has any plans, or perhaps suggest she just enjoy this new season of life without the guilt of feelings she “should be” doing this or that. There’s always something to be doing—let’s encourage one another as we embrace each season of motherhood.